The Essential and Timeless Guide to Motivating Yourself

How to Take More Action: 10 Powerful Tips
Image by goodsurfers2008 (license).

[hana-code-insert name=’social w twitt face’ /]“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain

Motivation can be a huge help for you to achieve what you want in life. But how can you find all that motivation you need?

Well, looking at timeless advice from time to time helps me. And in this article I’ll share four of my favorite timeless thoughts on motivation, four thoughts that motivate and inspire me.

Make a conscious choice.

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”
Wayne Dyer

“I was thinking one day and I realized that if I just had somebody behind me all the way to motivate me I could make a big difference. Nobody came along like that so I just became that person for myself.”

Help, accountability and motivation from others is always good. But in the end you to be able to rely on yourself. And there is really no escaping it, because as Dyer says, it’s always your choice what to do.

So you have to consciously choose to motivate yourself. You can do that by:

  • Doing what you really, really like to do. When you really like doing something then the motivation to do it comes automatically (most of the time). And when you really want something then it simply becomes easier to push through any inner resistance you feel. You are so motivated to achieve whatever it is you want that the risks you may encounter may be scary but smaller than your desire.
  • Make a list of upsides. Write down all the benefits you will get from achieving something, like for example getting into better shape or making more money. Save it and pull that list out of the drawer whenever your motivation is lacking and review it. Or put it somewhere where you will see it every day. This is a powerful way to reconnect with your motivation and reasons for taking action.
  • Compare yourself with yourself. Comparing what you have and your results to what other people have and have accomplished can really kill your motivation. There are always people ahead of you. Most likely quite a bit of people. And a few of them are miles ahead.
    So focus on you. On your results. And how you can and have improved your results. Reviewing your results is important so you see where you have gone wrong in the past to avoid similar missteps further on. But it’s also important because it’s a great motivator to see how much you have improved and how far you have come. Often you can be pleasantly surprised when you do such a review.

But the most important thing is to take responsibility for your own motivation and feelings and not wait around for someone else to do it. When you do that you will most often find a way to get yourself to start moving towards what you want.

Walk your talk.

“Walking your talk is a great way to motivate yourself. No one likes to live a lie. Be honest with yourself, and you will find the motivation to do what you advise others to do.”
Vince Poscente

This is great tip. Whenever you don’t follow your own talk or just your inner rules of how you want to behave you tend to feel bad. Your esteem of yourself sinks and your motivation to get going does too.

So you have to be honest with yourself when you feel like you are out of alignment. You have to get up and get started again. When your talk and inner standards you have set for yourself align with what you do then you your self-esteem goes up.

You feel great because you are living like you deep down want to. And you are getting all these important things done and can enjoy the results. And then you want more of that good stuff, you sometimes feel so motivated that you can’t wait to get going.

This is not always easy. In the short run it’s often easier and less uncomfortable and scary to lie to yourself a bit and hold yourself back. But the rewards for walking your talk are big. Both on the outside and the inside.

Set big goals that really inspire you.

“Goals are not only absolutely necessary to motivate us. They are essential to really keep us alive.”
Robert H. Schuller

Without inspiring goals you tend wander around aimlessly in a confused funk.

I think the most important thing about setting goals is to find goals that really inspire and motivate you.

What are your goals? As much as possible, you have to set the goals for yourself. Should and ought to-goals aren’t good enough. Or goals that other people have set for you.

Think about your goals. Think about who has set them. Then think about what you really want in life. Then set your own goals. Write them down.

I also don’t think one should be afraid of setting big goals. Set a big goal that inspires you even if it may seem a tad unrealistic at the moment. If you have too easily achievable goals then you may find that they don’t give you that motivational spark and drive. When you start to think a bit bigger then you get motivated and your mind starts looking for the solutions that will help you achieve that goal. Thinking too small can leave you with a “meh…” feeling or make you feel like you can do it later.

And a benefit of doing things this way – even if you don’t quite achieve your big, big goal or it takes a while longer than you may have hoped for – can be found in a quote from Les Brown:

“Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.”

Don’t get too hung up on being motivated to get started.

“The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.”
John C. Maxwell

Here’s another view on motivation. Maybe you don’t need it to get started? Maybe you can create it along the way?

Many times I have found it better to just do it and start working instead of trying to motivate myself to get going. At first what you do may suck quite a bit and it’s hard going. But after a while inspiration and motivation seems to catch up with you. Things start to flow easier and your work is of a higher quality.

And after you have kept going for a while you become more and more motivated. Because you start to feel like you can actually do this and you can keep going to achieve your goal. And now you are also walking your talk which boosts your motivation.

On some days you may not seem to be able motivate yourself into action. Even if you review your goals or reasons to achieve something.

That’s ok. You can still make a conscious choice based on what you know deep down is right and just start moving your hands and feet anyway. No matter how you feel inside, no matter what negative thoughts may be circling around in your head.

Try both to get yourself motivated before you begin and to just do it and find the motivation along the way. Try both ways and see what works best for you.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Geraldine

    Some excellent advice here. Compare yourself, with yourself, very good. Thank you.

  • This is a very timely blog post for me, I can really relate to what you are saying, particularly about goal setting.

    About a year ago I was one of those people who was all over the place, and to be honest, it was only after I set-up my own business did I actually find the goals which truly motivated me into action.

    I only hope I reach as many goals in my second year as I have in my first – great post!

    • Thank you! Yep, I have been there too, without goals that I really wanted to achieve I was all over the place or drifted without focus.

  • Whenever we are afraid of something because we think something bad is going to happen or believe something won’t work out, it’s usually just in our mind. All of us use past experiences to learn, and make future decisions but the problem is that we can expect the same scenerios to play out over and over again and they can end up holding us back.

  • Henrik,
    I love that Mark Twain quote in the beginning of your post. It is so true, when we get to the end of our lives we will focus mainly on the things that we didn’t do.

    I love goals and I usually have several going on at a time. Some immediate , and some are long term goals.

    Your right, without goals we would wander around aimlessly. I should know because I had a few years like that.

    • Thanks for sharing how goals help you, Justin. And I agree, it’s an awesome quote. :)

  • You don’t have to compete with anyone but yourself. This is one of the many things this post gives us. Thank you for reminding us about this realizations. Kudos to you.

  • Thank you for your excellent reply!

    I agree, willpower is weak and doesn’t last for long. But “just doing it” and using willpower works well for me to get started. Then I find inspiration and motivation along the way as I keep working.

    And small goals or as I usually think of it: breaking a bigger goal into small actionable steps, is really a very effective way to make headway on your path to accomplishing that big goal.

  • I totally agree. Finding what you love to do and doing that as best you can makes it a lot easier to stay motivated.

  • Jon

    Great post! The “along the way” motivations are essential. Getting started, sometimes, is the the easy part. Staying motivated through long stretches of sporadic successes is harder. Many solid insights here to keep on the motivated path! Thanks!

  • The quote at the start of this post is one of my favourites of all time. It has inspired me since the days I was plucking up the courage to leave corporate life 10 years ago. Since leaving corporate lfie in 2001 to follow my own path the issue of self motivation has come up many times in all sorts of different ways.
    As you point out, the bottom line is you have to take personal responsibility for picking your elf up and finding what works for you to keep yourself motivated and nurture those things.

    • Very cool, thank you for sharing your own story with that quote. Yes, that is really what it boils down too, you have to take personal responsibility for it every day.

  • Geraldine

    One of my own favorite quotes:

    The best way to begin, is, to begin.

    Sometimes, the inspiration does follow the action, not the other way around.

    I really like your blog/site!

  • I agree with you Ali, I really love that quote too.

    I think it is so important to continually keep connected to your bigger vision to keep you on track and inspired to keep plugging forward. To help with this I have my own vision board that I fill with quotes/pictures and ideas/reflections associated with my end vision and every time I glance at it I feel ultra energised and motivated. I suggest it to a lot of my clients who have found the same positive affects. It is also a great tool to elicit the law of attraction and is something Jeremy and Esther Hicks discuss in their hugely insightful book ‘Ask and It is Given’

    • That’s a really cool idea that I too have found helpful to stay on the right track. I haven’t done it with images yet though, just with words.

  • I have just stumbled on your blog and love your words of wisdom – especially the wonderful, insightful quotes sprinkled throughout. Thanks so much for the boost!

  • Great post,I especially loved the part about creating your dream along the way,it invariably works best this way for me.both in my business and personal life.Too much analysing and planning is usually a cover-up for procrastination!Thanks for the insights!

  • Asking what you REALLY want to do is a powerful question. And for me it’s just not a macro question (i.e. large goals ) it’s also a micro question that needs to be asked many times during your daily living routine.

    • Good point about the daily questions and not just the big picture ones, thank you for adding it. :)

  • Hi Jussi! Yep. Sitting around waiting for motivation or inspiration isn’t fun or very effective.